Employees’ Choice Awards: McMillan creates an authentic work environment

Mark Brownlee
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When it comes to making his office a place where employees want to work, Gordon McMillan isn’t a big fan of “junkets” – the ski trips, cruises and bonding exercises that employees attend together.

Gordon McMillan is the chief creative officer at McMillan.

“We get really high marks just because it’s a really good place to work, not because we go to Fort Lauderdale and take a cruise for a week,” says Mr. McMillan, the chief creative officer for advertising and marketing agency McMillan.

“That just doesn’t make sense to me and it doesn’t make sense to the people who work here.”

It all plays into Mr. McMillan’s philosophy for creating his ideal work environment. Instead of putting the emphasis on making his employees happy, the company instead focuses on fostering authenticity in the workplace.

Dealing with employees in an upfront and clear manner is part of that, notes Mr. McMillan. The company hopes to foster new lines of communication by bringing in coaches whose sole job is to look for new ways to allow employees and managers to connect.

“The happiness thing kind of can fall out of that, but we’re not actually as managers saying, ‘Gee, we want people to be happy,’” he says. “What we want to say is we want to treat everyone authentically and we want to communicate clearly.”

Improved communication skills bring the added benefit of making it easier for employees to work with clients, he says.

If you do great work and you have a great quality of work life, the financials will take care of itself.

That doesn’t mean employees never get the chance to have fun together, however.

A group of employees – which is jokingly referred to around the office as the Committee to be Committed Committee – gets together to organize events such as parties. Mr. McMillan says this allows employees to decide for themselves what they want to do.

Mr. McMillan notes that the firm also awards “very substantial bonuses” based on how the team does collectively.

It’s all part of fostering a work environment in which employees feel they can thrive and, ultimately, build a better company.


Founded: 1996

Employees: 50

No. of ECAs: 3

What they’re doing right:

Allowing employees to create their own workplace events

Helping employees work on their communications skills

Bonuses based on how employees work collectively

Organizations: Committed Committee

Geographic location: Fort Lauderdale

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